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Adventures in Bookish Parenting: Baby-Proofing Our Bookshelves

Amanda Nelson

Staff Writer

Amanda Nelson is an Executive Director of Book Riot. She lives in Richmond, VA.


My bookshelves live in constant fear. Their life was once uneventful, consisting only of the occasional rearranging and the less occasional dusting. But now, oh now! They are under constant onslaught from the most devious of enemies: cute babies.

Some parents have to deal with their newly mobile babies crawling around the kitchen and pulling out pots and pans, or crawling around the living room and destroying all the DVDs within reach. In our house, there’s a different sort of terror: the Twins Are Lightning Fast Crawlers And Have a Taste For First Editions kind.

While I would love to say that I’m just constantly vigilant and that our baby-proofing consists of me catching the boys every time they reach for a book and gently reprimanding them and redirecting their attention, that’s not the deal, Lucille. Our living room alone has four floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, all full, and all full of Potential Delicious Baby Snacks or General Ingredients in Messy Mayhem.

So, we’ve had to get a bit creative with our bookshelf baby-proofing. It started with just laying dining room chairs across the front of each bookshelf. Going to the store to buy real baby gates (or leaving the house for any reason) with twins is just a major hassle, and dining room chairs are free, so. My living room looked ridiculous, but my books were safe.

Then the twins got strong enough to push the chairs out of the way. Hulk babies smash mommy’s lazy and ineffective book protection strategy! Hulk babies EAT THORNTON WILDER! This led to the next strategy- put the bike my husband rides to work in front of one bookshelf, move the furniture around so it blocks access to the second, put a real baby gate in front of the third, and clear off the bottom shelf of the fourth bookshelf and just stick the boys’ books in it (except they eat those, too, much to Nutbrown Hare’s chagrin).

Then they learned to pull themselves up. Now all my bottom-shelf-centric protection strategies are moot. The second shelf is in danger. The books cower in fear as applesauce-sticky hands try to smear their covers and introduce their pages to gaping baby-maws. I want my living room back! I want to put the bike where it belongs- outside! I want the twins to be fascinated by their own damn toys, and stop trying to take mine (said as I throw sand out of the sand box)!

So I went on a search for a new bookshelf baby-proofing idea. The internet, ever the font of brilliant and kooky ideas, yielded solutions. One blogger nailed screen mesh across the bottom shelves- she can still see the books, but the babies can’t get to them. Problem: as her baby has gotten older, she’s learned to wriggle her arm behind the mesh and get to the books.

The solution I think I’m going to actually try is this one– the parents have tied bicycle tire inner tubes around each shelf. They keep the baby from pulling the books out while keeping the books visible and accessible to adults, like giant rubber bands. Genius, I say! I’ll keep you updated. Meanwhile, feel free to tell me your bookshelf baby-proofing strategies. Pretty, pretty please.